Hope & Despair - "Hoffnung und Verzweiflung"
How can one create an interrelated, cross-border culture of remembrance? How can one arouse an interest in the history of National Socialism and World War II among tourists? These questions are the focus of the Danish-German research and development project "Hope & Despair." Within the framework of this project, institutions from the border region are developing concepts for a contemporary culture of remembrance. In addition to the Kiel University of Applied Sciences and Europa-Universität Flensburg (EUF), Danish and German museums and memorial sites as well as tourism organizations are involved in the project, which is headed by the Design School Kolding. Scheduled to run for three years, the project will receive approximately 1.3 million euros in funding from the European Union's Interreg program.
The Neuengamme concentration camp memorial in Hamburg lies approximately 200 kilometers south of the German-Danish border, while Billund is located 120 kilometers north of it. The latter houses the largest collection of World War II artifacts in Denmark, and exhibition recalls the role of the railroad at the time. 40 kilometers south, at the Kolding Museum, Denmark's only preserved Gestapo cell provides a glimpse into the city's occupation history. Those heading south from here will pass Frøslevlejrens Museum, the historic site of the Frøslev internment camp. Starting in August 1944, the camp served as a prison for mainly so-called political prisoners and Danish policemen.
On the other side of the border were two satellite camps of Neuengamme concentration camp. The prisoners of the Husum-Schwesing and Ladelund camps were forced to build the "Friesenwall." In November and December 1944, 300 prisoners died in Ladelund alone while building anti-tank trenches. They are buried in the local cemetery next to the concentration camp memorial and meeting place, explains its director Dr. Katja Happe. "The prisoners came from all over Europe. Because of our location on the border with Denmark, we have a strong interest in expanding cross-border remembrance work." The Jewish Museum Rendsburg is also involved in the project and hopes that cross-border remembrance and cooperation will provide new perspectives on its own themes. "Together with a Danish artist, we will enrich 'Hope & Despair' with content and issues that go beyond the Nazi era and develop attractive offers for Danish and German visitors," explains its director Jonas Kuhn.
Cooperation across national and institutional borders
Despite their common historical reference point, the seven museums and memorials on both sides of the border are collaborating in this constellation for the first time. "Together, the seven sites can become one big attraction," project leader Sune Gudiksen of the Design School Kolding is convinced. "It makes a lot of sense to link the stories together and communicate across locations. It's like going from a feature film to a series of TV episodes." "Hope & Despair" is based at the university's Laboratory for Play and Design and is part of the "Playful attractions" research and development program. In addition to managing the project, the researchers from Kolding contribute their experience in Play Design and participation processes.
Through its ATMOSphere research group, the Sonic College of UC SYD contributes experiences with the integration of sound elements into storytelling and mediation in museums. Their importance as essential aspects of museum exhibition design is increasingly well understood, explains Birgitte Folmann. "Sound can not only influence the overall atmosphere of an exhibition, but can also convey unique interpretive content and enable multi-sensory engagement with artifacts."
A nuanced view of history for current and future generations
With their expertise in exhibition and communication techniques, the universities will ensure that the project communication is contemporary, relevant and attractive. In addition to tourists, the project partners are also focusing on younger generations. The didactic offerings will focus on conveying historical contexts and promoting a reflexive awareness of history. The storytelling concepts to be developed at the Kiel University of Applied Sciences will offer different perspectives on the World War II period, explains media scientist Prof. Dr. Tobias Hochscherf: "There are only a few eyewitnesses left who can tell of their experiences during the Second World War. That makes it all the more important to give future generations a critical view of history."
Hedwig Wagner is involved in the project at Europa-Universität Flensburg. The extent to which cultures of memory can be transnational is one of the most exciting questions of our time, explains the professor of European media studies. Her attention is focused on the intersections between Europe and the media. "This is also my interest in the project 'Hope & Despair': to what extent can the traces of the layers of the past, which are perceived differently nationally on the one hand and different on the other, be experienced and interwoven through a cross-border tour in the North German-South Danish region and thus contribute to the perception of a common past? My motto is: Europe ward through media - especially through memory media and medial mediations of the past."
In addition to the universities and the museums and memorial sites, three tourism agencies on both sides of the German-Danish border are also participating in "Hope & Despair." They are contributing their marketing know-how, explains Gorm Casper, managing director of Tourismus Agentur Flensburger Förde GmbH: "We want to develop experiential offers, especially in the area of storytelling on the subject of the Second World War and on places of remembrance from the Nazi era. This will be used to expand our offerings for group tours, but also to develop specific tours - whether by guide or smartphone."
The Hope and Despair project officially launched on May 1, 2023, and will run for three years. It is supported by Interreg 6A Germany-Danmark, a program that promotes development in the Danish-German region. The idea came from the Design School Kolding, which is also the project leader. Other Danish participants: Museum Kolding, Frøslevlejrens Museum, Billund Municipality Museums, Destination Sønderjylland and Destination Triangle Area, and UC SYD. On the German side, the Ladelund Concentration Camp Memorial and Meeting Place, the Husum-Schwesing Concentration Camp Memorial, the Rendsburg Jewish Museum, the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial (part of the Hamburg Foundation of Memorials and Learning Places for the Remembrance of Victims of Nazi Crimes), the Flensburg Fjord Tourism Center, as well as the Kiel University of Applied Sciences and the Europa-Universität Flensburg are participating.
Click here to see a graphic about the project (Copyright: Designskolen Kolding).